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Why Our Books, Movies and Music Are the Catalysts of Politics

Many culturally induced nerve endings, hidden from the view of polls and focus groups, help determine political currents.

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It wasn't my war. You asked me, I didn't ask you. And I did what I had to do to win. But somebody wouldn't let us win. Then I come back to the world and I see all those maggots at the airport. Protesting me. Spitting. Calling me baby killer. ... Who are they to protest me? Huh?

 

The legend of peace protesters spitting at vets is one of the most successful lies ever perpetrated on the American public. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, running for the U.S Senate in 2010, claimed to have served in Viet Nam and lamented the way returning soldiers were treated saying in a campaign year speech "When we came back we were spat on." The

New York Times

later revealed that although Blumenthal had served in the Army during the Viet Nam War he had actually never served in Viet Nam itself. Blumenthal apologized for pretending to have served in the War and survived to win election to the Senate but the myth of spit-upon Viet Nam vets had become so internalized that the media never pointed out that not only had Blumenthal not been spit on coming home from a war he never served in, but there is also no evidence that any soldiers were spit on by peace activists. Jerry Lembcke, a Viet Nam vet, argued persuasively that the story is bullshit in his 1998 book

The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam

, in which he researched every supposed report of the kind of spitting that Stallone’s fictitious character described and could not find a single first hand account of such an incident. There is no question that Viet Nam veterans were not treated well by their country but the blame for that belongs with the governmental agencies that failed to provide them with the kind of support that World War II vets had enjoyed as a result of the GI Bill and the political leaders who sent them to fight a war which they ultimately could not justify.

 

In the real world many Viet Nam veterans, most famously John Kerry, were a significant part of the anti-war movement. Most importantly, the passage of time and the release of White House tapes from both the Johnson and Nixon administrations made it clear that the Viet Nam war was never related to a genuine American security interest but to domestic politics, largely the fear of being called “soft on communism." And the fall of South Viet Nam as a separate country did absolutely nothing to hurt the United States during the Cold War or thereafter. But you would never know any of these things if

Rambo

was your source of information.

 

The Hollywood feature

Red Dawn

was written and directed by John Milius. It was produced by MGM/UA who actually recruited former Reagan Secretary of State Alexander Haig “to consult with the director and inculcate the appropriate ideological tint.” MGM/UA executive Peter Bart wrote that “Haig took Milius under his wing and suddenly he found himself welcomed into right-wing think tanks.” The film absurdly depicted a Soviet/Cuban invasion of America’s Southwest in which the communists take over several American towns. A group of High School kids played by Patrick Swayze, Lea Thompson, C. Thomas Howell and, of course, Charlie Sheen, retreat to the mountains and form a guerilla army to fight the communists, calling themselves The Wolverines. Aware and proud of the film’s influence on some impressionable young minds, Milius later boasted, “Wolverines have grown up and gone to Iraq.” Although controlled by the Russians, the primary invading force of American in

 
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